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Arm’s first new architecture in a decade is designed for security and AI

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And it promises double-digit CPU performance increases

TAIWAN-IT-ARM SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Chip designer Arm has announced Armv9, its first new chip architecture in a decade following Armv8 way back in 2011. According to Arm, Armv9 offers three major improvements over the previous architecture: security, better AI performance, and faster performance in general. These benefits should eventually trickle down to devices with processors based on Arm’s designs.

It’s an important milestone for the company, whose designs power almost every smartphone sold today, as well as increasing numbers of laptops and even servers. Apple announced its Mac computers’ transition to its own Arm-based processors last year, and its first Apple Silicon Macs released later in the year. Other manufacturers like Microsoft have also released Arm-based laptops in recent years.

First of the big three improvements coming with Armv9 is security. The new Arm Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA), attempts to protect sensitive data with a secure, hardware-based environment. These so-called “Realms” can be dynamically created to protect important data and code from the rest of the system.

Next up is AI processing. Armv9 will include Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2), a technology that is designed to help with machine learning and digital signal processing tasks. This should benefit everything from 5G systems to virtual and augmented reality and machine learning workloads like image processing and voice recognition. AI applications like these are said to be a key reason why Nvidia is currently in the process of buying Arm for $40 billion.

But away from these more specific improvements, Arm also promises more general performance increases from Armv9. It expects CPU performance to increase by over 30 percent across the next two generations, with further boosts performance coming from software and hardware optimizations. Arm says all existing software will run on Armv9-based processors without any problems.

With the architecture announced, the big question is when the processors using the architecture might release and find their way into consumer products. Arm says it expects the first Armv9-based silicon to ship before the end of the year.